Security

Google Allo ‘Leaks’ Previous Searches In Conversations

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Google works to fix error that saw previous searches shared in group chats via AI-assisted smart messaging app Allo

Google Allo might not be the messaging application for you if you need to share business information or just care about privacy  – at least not until an apparent issue has been fixed.

The app’s unique selling point is Google Assistant integration, allowing users to ask the artificial intelligence (AI) platform questions during conversations. It serves up contextual replies and learns user behaviour to get relevant information quicker. 

Allo can even reply for you once it learns more about the smartphone owner and the context of the conversation. 

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Google Allo privacy 

But Recode has noticed that results can be less than relevant and might even include something from previous searches. This means something personal or sensitive might come up in a chat – exposing secrets or corporate information. 

It was also noted that Google Allo is consistent with sharing information that could be considered sensitive. For example, it asked permission to share someone’s name but not a location of their office. 

The issues appear accidental rather than by design.

Google told the website: “We were notified about the Assistant in group chats not working as intended. We’ve fixed the issue and appreciate the report.”  

However Allo has been criticised in the past for not enabling encryption by default, meaning conversations could be accessed by law enforcement agencies. This is in contrast to WhatsApp and iMessage which feature end to end encryption in all conversations. 

However WhatsApp itself came under fire earlier this year after a researcher claimed a system designed to ensue offline messages were delivered allowed WhatsApp to reissue encryption keys, potentially creating a backdoor, something the company denies.